Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Reigning MotoGP World Champion secures second pole of 2012
Casey Stoner stormed to pole during a sun-drenched qualifying session ahead of tomorrow’s Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya in Spain with the Australian taking the top position away from home hero Jorge Lorenzo and the Yamaha Factory Racing Team along with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow rounding out the top three and securing his second ever front row start in MotoGP.
We're going to have to wait and see but I'm happy to start from pole.
Stoner was back to his normal lightning-quick self today after dropping down the timings in yesterday’s afternoon session and took pole away from Lorenzo with a stunningly fast time of 1m 41.295s to that of the Spaniard’s best of 1m 41.441s while Crutchlow was not too far off the top starting position with his best time of 1m 41.548s.
Happy with his pole position, Stoner is concerned however with tire life in the sweltering track temperatures at the Spanish circuit that reached a high of 52° today. Stoner said, "We used the qualifying as an extended practice session as we don't always have enough time to do everything during the 45 minute sessions. This morning we did a lot of work with the hard tire, so in the afternoon in these hot conditions, we worked more with the softer one to get a clearer understanding if we can run with it for race distance.
"We were in and out a lot during the session trying a few different things, hoping to reduce the chatter which is still proving to be a problem, as soon as I touch the throttle the bike starts to chatter in the rear and it's making things very difficult. Towards the end of the session we managed to improve it slightly but I think we need to make another step before the race. Tomorrow, for sure tire degradation is going to play a role so we're going to have to wait and see but I'm happy to start from pole,” Stoner added.
Lorenzo was just happy to be on the front row after he revealed that he nearly crashed during qualifying saying, “It was very important to finish on the front row today because I knew all the riders would be pushing to the limit in qualifying. The lap times were very close but I managed to make a good lap. I almost crashed in T3 on my first hot lap on the bumps so second place is good for tomorrow. We still need a little good feeling on the front; we are struggling on some corners so we need to improve the feeling or it’s going to be difficult in the race. We would have liked to be on pole, but we are happy with the position.”
Meanwhile Crutchlow was in great spirits after grabbing his second-ever front row start, ““I am really happy to be back on the front row again and it feels great considering this is only the second time I have been to this track. I expected to be up there challenging but wasn't sure where and my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew did another fantastic job with the bike today. It proves again that I've got the raw speed and consistency and now I am really looking forward to the race. It will be really tough if the conditions are the same with the temperature so hot but I am ready for it.
This morning I only used an old soft rear tire and I was still really fast, so I knew when I put in a new soft rear this afternoon that I could be much quicker. I got in a good lap even though I'm not completely comfortable with the set-up and I will definitely run the hard front and soft rear for the race. The hard doesn't give a big advantage over race distance. Today is a great result and hopefully I can do the same job tomorrow when it really counts,” Crutchlow added.
Heading the second row tomorrow is Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies who will be happy with being back at the sharp end following a tough start to the season. Spies’ time 1m 41.552s was fast enough to stay ahead of the second of the Repsol Hondas belonging to Dani Pedrosa (1m 41.656s) who will be looking for a strong finish in front of his home supporters tomorrow. Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Andrea Dovizioso secured the last place on the second row with his best lap of 1m 41.687s.
Nicky Hayden starts from 7th tomorrow for the Ducati Racing team and was the first rider outside of the 1m 41s bracket with his best of 1m 42.029s was enough to start in front of rookie Stefan Bradl for the LCR Honda team (1m 42.065s) and Valentino Rossi on the second factory Ducati with his best lap of 1m 42.175s. Rounding out the top ten is Alvaro Bautista for the San Carlo Honda Gresini squad with his fastest lap of 1m 42.356s.
Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera will start from 11th place tomorrow with the Spaniard unable to improve his personal best lap of 1m 42.375s while Cardion AB Motoracing rider Karel Abraham was nearly a whole second slower with a time of 1m 43.266s and the fastest of the CRT machines in the hands of Frenchman Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar), just a fraction off the Czech Republic rider with a best lap of 1m 43.500s.
NGM Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards put in a strong performance on his comeback race after breaking his left collarbone in Estoril and starts from 14th tomorrow with his best lap of 1m 44.024s. Aleix Espargaro finished 15th fastest today with a best lap of 1m 44.041s with Michele Pirro in 16th setting a best time of 1m 44.356s on board his San Carlo Honda Gresini machine. James Ellison will start from 17th tomorrow with a best lap time of 1m 44.763s for the Paul Bird Motorsport team with Mattia Pasini (Speed Master) in 18th after setting his best time of 1m 44.764s. Yonny Hernandez starts from 19th with a best lap of 1m 44.833s for the Avintia Blusens team ahead of Danilo Petrucci and the Came IodaRacing Project in 20th with a best time of 1m 45.730s with Ivan Silva and his Avintia Blusens machine starting from 21st after setting his best lap of 1m 45.962s.